Giving students the realistic and hands-on experience they need before entering the workforce is a top priority for Moraine Park Technical College, and the Building Trades Construction Worker (BTCW) program is no exception. After spending the past year building a 1,509 square-foot, one-story home in Fond du Lac with Roberts Homes and Real Estate, students who received this one-year technical diploma are now able to hit the ground running.
The class included Christopher Bengsch of Reeseville; Alfred Bonnell, Sebastian Doern, Daniel Gandy, Joshua Hanna and Kenneth Krahn of Fond du Lac; Cody Brace of Hartford; Spencer Hupfer of West Bend; Michael Neuman of Beaver Dam; Kyle Pucker of Rosendale and Ryan Yonke of Berlin.
Don Enders, BTCW program instructor, said this is the first time Moraine Park has teamed up with Roberts Homes to work collaboratively on a construction project – the BTCW students (with guidance from Enders) provided the carpentry-related labor for the home, and Roberts supplied everything else.
Jim Roberts, of Roberts Homes and Real Estate, was very impressed with the Moraine Park students who worked on the project. “You only learn so much in the classroom; this hands-on approach is a lot more effective for the students, and I was happy to be part of this learning experience,” said Roberts.
Roberts has overseen the production of over 1,000 homes in the Fond du Lac area but had never before worked with students on a home. “The BTCW students were very professional and easy to work with,” said Roberts. “Don is an excellent instructor with a great reputation as a builder in the community, so I knew it would be a good partnership.”
The home is Energy Star qualified, meeting strict guidelines for energy efficiency set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “This is where home building is heading,” said Roberts. He and Enders explained that it was important for the students to learn about building a sustainable home and understand related qualifications before heading into the workforce.
During the first eight weeks of the BTCW program, students used class time to prepare themselves to build a home. They learned how to read prints, interpret building codes, operate construction tools, estimate building materials and perform site and building layout. Roberts donated hundreds of feet of oak trim to the BTCW program to use in preparing students to install trim. Students practiced in the classroom until they achieved proficiency, then performed the work at the home.
“I felt very prepared before starting on the home,” said Kyle Pucker, a student from Rosendale. “This project was a great way to get a feel for what the construction field will be like; I now feel confident applying for building trades construction positions in this area.”
Enders explained that students started roughing-in the home in October by applying foam to the foundation. They continued by building floors, walls, a roof and stairs. Roof shingles, windows and doors, fascia and soffit were substantially completed by Christmas break. Electrical, HVAC, plumbing and drywall were completed by sub-contractors during Christmas break. The students applied the siding and remaining soffit after break, completing the exterior of the home. They hung doors; installed cabinets, countertops, moldings and bathroom accessories; and finished the stairs.
“The students enjoyed learning new skills and having this practical experience,” said Enders. “They were assessed not only on the quality of the work but on their core abilities like showing up on time, working within a team setting, critical thinking and working productively.”
Students gained a broad-based knowledge in most disciplines of the construction industry, attending classes in masonry, electricity, plumbing, HVAC, AutoCAD, basic welding and small engine maintenance and repair. Students were certified in First-Aid, OSHA-10, Forklift Training, Fire and Hazardous Material Safety and General Safety.
Enders, who owned his own Fond du Lac construction company for 25 years, made a change three years ago to teach full-time at Moraine Park as an instructor for the BTCW program. “I absolutely love teaching,” said Enders. “Seeing the sense of accomplishment these students got from helping to build a home from start to finish makes my job so rewarding. Students were out there taking photos of the home to show friends and family after it was built — it really was heartwarming.
“The BTCW program is grateful to Roberts Homes for their patience and for giving the students an opportunity to build a home. Their experience will last a lifetime,” said Enders. For more information on the BTCW program, visit morainepark.edu/programs.